Tachypnea; Breathing - rapid and shallow; Fast shallow breathing; Respiratory rate - rapid and shallow
A normal breathing rate for an adult at rest is 12 to 20 breaths per minute. For an infant, a normal rate is 30 to 60 breaths per minute.
Tachypnea is the term that your health care provider uses to describe your breathing if it is too fast, especially if you have fast, shallow breathing from a lung disease or other medical cause.
The term hyperventilation is usually used if you are taking rapid, deep breaths. This can be due to lung disease or because of anxiety or panic. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Shallow, rapid breathing has many possible medical causes, including:
Rapid, shallow breathing should not be treated at home. It is generally considered a medical emergency (unless anxiety is the only cause).
If you have asthma or COPD, use your inhaler or nebulizer medicines as prescribed by your provider. You may still need to be checked by a provider right away if you have rapid shallow breathing. Your provider will explain when it is important to go to the emergency room.
Call 911 or the local emergency number, or go to the emergency room if you are breathing rapidly and you have:
The provider will do a thorough exam of your heart, lungs, abdomen, and head and neck.
Tests that may be ordered include:
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the rapid breathing. Treatment may include oxygen if your oxygen level is too low. If you are having an asthma or a COPD attack, you'll receive treatment to stop the attack.
Many times, this evaluation will need to be done in an emergency room setting.
Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 77.
McGee S. Respiratory rate and abnormal breathing patterns. In: McGee S, ed. Evidence-Based Physical Diagnosis. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 19.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 5/3/2023
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron Jr. Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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